With gas prices rising, it is tempting to think of the present situation as an anomaly brought on by refinery maintenance, corporate greed, and other factors that may soon resolve themselves. In the near term, this explanation may hold, but the future looks far bleaker.
In 2000, known reserves of the world’s fossil fuels (petroleum, dry natural gas, and coal) had an energy equivalent of about 33 thousand energy units (quadrillion Btu), which we were depleting (producing) at a rate of about 340 per year. Simple curve fits to fossil fuel production indicate that we will either deplete all of these reserves in 30 years or level out production in 20 years. The top remaining energy sources, hydroelectric and nuclear, contributed an additional 53 energy units per year, or about one-seventh of the total annual world production.
The consequences of these numbers are staggering, and consistent with my projections of population based on global ecological footprint (that the population will crash by 2046) if, as expected, we discover a bit more fossil fuel than we already know about. Since renewable energy is our only hope of forestalling ecological disaster, we will need to use it to provide all of our energy needs as soon as possible.